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The Dragon's Eye by Joël Champetier
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The Dragon's Eye

by Joël Champetier

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It is with novels like The Dragon's Eye my antipathy toward hard SF becomes evident. Or does it? Certainly authors like Kim Stanley Robinson are capable of writing hard SF, introducing fascinating concepts and situations which are completely and utterly foreign to present-world understanding. Robinson unhinges the reader with the brilliance of his vision.

Perhaps it is there the difference between Champetier's novel, translated by Trudel, and Robinson's work becomes most evident: vision.

Champetier creates a science premise which in itself is fascinating: a binary system in which Earth colonists from China attempt to create a purist vision of their homeland and culture. However, instead of focusing on the challenges of living in an environment made hostile by a star pumping out deadly levels of radiation, Champetier instead creates what essentially boils down to Bond in Space, replete with lady-killer protagonist, helpless female waif, and Mandarin-style espionage and subterfuge. Truly the entire plot ended up so sadly predictable.

And I did so want to like this novel. It came highly recommended by a colleague whose tastes I trust. Champetier himself is not unknown to me in the circles in which I orbit. Yet hard as I tried I could find little in the plot to snare my attention and fill me with a sense of wonder.

Which, in the end, is what good SF should engender: wonder, whether that wonder is horrific or beatific doesn't matter. That sense of Wow needs to be there.

So, with apologies to Champetier, and my trusted colleague, I will simply have to put this negative review down to differing tastes and expectations. ( )
  fiverivers | Feb 7, 2015 |
a Spy Story set on a planet called New China, a remote chinese colony. NOt bad but not rivetting ( )
  woosang | Dec 31, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312868820, Hardcover)

The setup for The Dragon's Eye is intriguing: the fifth habitable planet to be colonized by humans was not all that habitable; it lacked an abundance of natural resources, and its second sun beamed down poisonous ultraviolet rays causing burns and blindness. Overpopulated China was the only nation desperate enough to take on the challenge--and the debt--of colonizing it.

Over a hundred years later, secret agent Tanner arrives on New China on assignment to the European Enclave. He's got a couple of days to soak up information on local habits, politics, and personalities--then he disguises himself as Chinese and embarks on his mission to the interior with Hamakawa, a jaded Japanese agent. Along the way, they pick up Qingling, a New Chinese woman who falls for Tanner.

The Dragon's Eye is the first of French-Canadian Joel Champetier's novels to be translated into English. It starts off well, but in its quest to be both science fiction and political thriller it does justice to neither. The science fiction aspect could delve more into the cultural changes of the New Chinese and interactions with the Terrans who settle there. The hapless Tanner, Hamakawa, and Qingling can't quite hold our interest as characters in a better-plotted thriller would. Tanner's struggles with his biological disguise are interesting, but his character development isn't convincing.

While one can imagine The Dragon's Eye as better SF or better espionage, Champetier's New China and its political intrigue may be worth a look for those who like their SF with some action mixed in. --Bonnie Bouman

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:14 -0400)

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